Sarah, Plain and Tall

Author: Patricia MacLachlan

Age Range: 8-10

Interest Range: 8-10

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: Anna and Caleb’s mother passed away years ago, shortly after Caleb was born. Their house is no longer full of singing, and their father is tired of raising a family on his own. One day he announces that he as been writing to a woman from Maine who is going to come and visit them. She may even stay and be their new mother. Sarah introduces herself to the children through letters, and describes herself as plain and tall. When she shows up, the children are excited at the prospect of such a kind and interesting lady becoming a part of their family. But as much as Sarah enjoys the children and her new life in the frontier, she also misses home: her brother, her aunts, and most of all the ocean. Will Sarah decide to stay in the prairie? Or will she miss the sea so much that she must return home again?

Review: Such a sweet book to touch on the ideas of a deceased mother and what used to happen in families in the time of the American Frontier. Mail-order brides are certainly not something that we think of often today, but at that point in history it was not uncommon for people to place advertisements for wives to join existing families out west. Told from the point of view of the children, this story is sweet and you cannot help but wish for Sarah to decide to stay with them. A great book to show how stepmothers can easily become a loving part of a family that needs to fill a void- not to replace the mother completely, but to help usher in a new time for everyone involved. Also a great story for those who are interested in the American West during the time of expansion.

Themes: Changes at Home, Building New Relationships, Death, Loss, Loneliness

Additional Info:

Awards: Newbery Medal Winner in 1986, Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction 1986, Golden Kite Award 1986 (for excellence in children’s literature)

Main Characters:

Anna: The oldest of two children who have recently lost their mother. She is intelligent, and sometimes cross with her younger brother who she sometimes blames for her mother’s early death (which happened post-childbirth). Anna desperately wants Sarah to decide to stay with them and be their new mother, but remains distant and worried that she will miss her home too much and leave them.

Caleb: The younger of the family’s children, who is now a few years old (maybe 5 or 6?) and loves to hear the story of his birth and stories about their mother. He is inquisitive and sometimes rude and difficult. He also very much wants Sarah to decide to stay- so much that he cries when she leaves for town for the day because he is convinced that he as been bad and she will buy a ticket to go back to Maine.

Jacob Witting: After years of raising two children on his own, Jacob is tired and wants to pursue having another wife. He decides to place an advertisement, describing the family and their situation, and eventually hears from Sarah. The two of them seem to get along very well and are kind to each other.

Sarah: A woman from Maine, who never married. Her brother had recently married and the family house was now being run by his new wife. Sarah desired a change and that is why she answered Jacob’s advertisement. Although she misses the sea most of all, she adjusts to life on the prairie relatively easily.

Bibliographic Info:

MacLachlan. P. (1985). Sarah, Plain and Tall. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Tagline:

Mother has been gone for years and Papa is tired of raising two children on his own. Will Sarah be everything the family is hoping for?

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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

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Directed by: Gary Ross

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Interest Range: 10-adult

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

Plot: Katniss has volunteered for the yearly government-enforced fight to the death, called the Hunger Games, to save her younger sister from certain death. She is now headed for a brief life of luxury in the Capital while training and world-building for the game are happening, before she is let loose with 23 other Tributes who will fight until only one remains. The Hunger Games are an establishment that the government has put in place to remind their people of the uprising the Districts once attempted. They are a way for the establishment to assert itself over its people every year, and make sure they acknowledge the power that is held over the people of the 12 Districts. But Katniss is special, she has a very clear reason to survive and is willing to do almost anything to get home- and the president has noticed her rebellious streak. Her life will never be the same.

Review: Since these books now appeal to such a wide audience, I was curious to see how they handled the movie. With such a violent and dark topic as a fight to the death among teenages treated as a garrish reality television show, this very easily could have been a R-rated movie. But they did a really good job of making it the least violent possible. Rarely do you see blood- and the most that is seen is from wounds like Katniss’s burn and Peeta’s cut. The most violent scenes are distorted, or sound is removed, so the viewer has an extra degree of separation from the action. Katniss and Peeta’s love story is not graphic, and at times isn’t even obvious (I watched this film with someone who had never read the books and often had to fill him in on the motives of each of the characters). I really do believe that children younger than 13 could watch this film and be ok. I think like with much dystopian writing, much of the more disturbing deeper message will go over kids’ heads due to lack of world experience. And if questions are asked, hopefully a parent will not shy away from having that conversation.

Themes: Dystopia, Inner Strength, Overcoming Challenges, Building New Relationships

Additional Info:

First in a film trilogy based on the books by Suzanne Collins. She was also involved in the writing for this film’s screenplay.

Main Characters:

Katniss Everdeen: A 16-year-old girl who is determined to survive the Hunger Games and get back to her family. She has very mixed up feelings regarding her hunting partner, Gale, and now Peeta, who has become her partner in the Hunger Games. Publicly, Peeta and Katniss are pretending to have feelings for each other, but by the end it’s unclear if everyone is still pretending- or if Peeta ever was.

Peeta Melark: The baker’s son, also from District 12. He is Katniss’s male counterpart in the Hunger Games, but obviously not as skilled at survival. He has been in love with Katniss since they were small children, and decides to make that public and play it up for popularity and the help and support of sponsors during the games.

Haymitch: District 12’s only past winner, he is given the task of mentoring all of their Tributes. Since they’ve never had another winner, one could see how this might be a very depressing task. But this year, he sees promise in Katniss and the possibility of a star-crossed lovers storyline. He manages to come out of his drunken haze to help win sponsors for the two Tributes and keep them alive.

Gale: Katniss’s hunting partner back home. Although they’ve never spoken of feelings for each other, it becomes clear that Katniss’s heart seems to lie with him. He’s promised to take care of her sister and mother while she is away.

Bibliographic Info:

Ross, G. (Director), Jacobson, N. (Producer), & Kilik, J. (Producer). (2012). The Hunger Games [Motion picture]. United States: Lionsgate, Color Force.

Tagline:

“The World Will Be Watching”

Video Game Review: Lego Harry Potter Years 1-7

Ages: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)

Harry Potter is such a loved franchise, I was not at all surprised to see someone take it on in both the physical world of Lego toys and the popular video game franchise that Lego now incorporates into their product lines. Watching the beloved characters come to life in those little blocky shapes and act out the story line we all know so well with only grunts and gestures is incredibly amusing in its own right, let alone getting to manipulate them through the levels. I appreciated the fact that the player actually has to acquire each new spell and ability by attending classes and going through activities to help you practice the new skill. By interspersing actual game play levels with classroom tutorials the player is able to feel good about the new spells and abilities before having to actually use them where it counts.

As with all of the Lego video games, there is so much built into the game that a player could take months to get through it all. Once you play through the Story Mode and unlock as much as you possibly can (each level has the four sub-goals of collecting a certain number of “coins”, finding the three hidden characters, locating all four parts of the Hogwarts Crest, and freeing the Student in Peril), you can go back and re-play each level as many times and with any different character you like (and have unlocked and bought) to try and achieve all of the possible goals and gain the desired Red and Gold Bricks. The Red Bricks give you extra useful and fun things to do each level (allowing your spells to work faster, giving all of the characters funny disguises to wear or turning all of their wands into carrots), while the Gold Bricks are more of an end-goal. Once all of the achievements for each level have been met, the player will have collected all of the Gold Bricks and is able to put them all together in Diagon Alley (technically in the basement of Gringots) to construct a final surprise. To be completely honest, I’m not sure what it is yet since I haven’t had the time to play through everything enough to achieve all of the goals. I hope to someday find out.

The people who make the Lego video games decided to break the Harry Potter saga into two separate stories. I think this was wise. The only problem I have with it is that they decided to tweak and change certain aspects between the two games, probably as advancements were made with software and in an attempt to make the overall experience better for the player the second time around (the original Xbox version of Years 1-4 had some glitches that made it impossible to advance past a certain part in the game on  your first attempt through), but I appreciate consistency when two games are so obviously linked. I wish that the Diagon Alley section had been the same for both games, instead of just different enough to throw me off. I had a really hard time finding where to purchase all of the unlocked characters in Years 5-7.

The available online walk-throughs continue to be a major help for me with this Lego game (as with all of the others). Some people might be ashamed to admit that a game designed for children can sometimes be too complex or confusing for them, but I certainly am not. Not being the most avid of gamers, and not having a lot of free-time available for video games these days, I often go to the walk-throughs to help me get past very specific puzzles or find well-hidden important elements. And I am amazed (but not surprised) when watching gamers much younger than myself walk through these games and puzzles like they are no challenge whatsoever. Another aspect of the Lego games that I enjoy is the inability to die. Sure, your little character can be hit only four times before being blown apart into tiny bricks, but then he just reforms where he was previously standing. Having lost coins, certainly, but they even give you a chance to quickly run around and gather up much of what was lost in the first few seconds after you regenerate. Not being forced to start over every time something bad happens or you fail to complete a task makes this game encouraging and less frustrating for younger players (and older players alike).

Lovers of the Harry Potter franchise who are missing the books, enjoyers of Legos, and those who love puzzle games will all enjoy these two Harry Potter video games. Even if they do get frustrating sometimes, there is enough present in each of these games for players of all levels and varying interests, and help is always available in online communities.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

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Author: Beverly Cleary

Age Range: 7-9

Interest Range: 7-9

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Plot: Ramona is starting the third grade, but that’s not the only new thing going on in her family. Her sister is now in Junior High, her dad is going back to school to become a teacher, and now her mother is working full-time to support them all. Things have definitely changed in the Quimby household. Ramona likes the third grade. She doesn’t let Yard Ape get the best of her, she gets to read great books during Sustained Silent Reading, and she really likes her teacher- or at least she did until she overheard Mrs. Whaley telling the secretary that Ramona was a show-off and a nuisance. What did Ramona do? Getting egg on her face at lunch wasn’t her fault, and neither was getting sick in class…but she did squeak her new shoes really loudly one day. Could that have been it? Things were already tense at home, and now Ramona’s feeling uncertain in school. Will she be able to play nice with her babysitter’s kids? Will her mother lose her job and her father have to drop out of school? And will she ever be able to make a book report interesting without being a show-off?

Review: This was a sweet little book. Ramona has a lot going on around her and definitely deals well with all of it. She has her uncertainties about what her parents are going through, and knows her responsibilities within the family even though she might not be happy about them. But overall she just wants to do well in school, not annoy her teacher, and be of help where she can at home. I was worried that the book might be a bit dated since it came out in the early 1980s, but the only thing that seemed out of place was the reference to a cigarette machine. That one small detail aside, this book could easily still be enjoyed by second and third graders today. I feel like it might even be more relevant today since many parents are going back to school and having to juggle that with family life. That idea could be confusing for a child, and reading a story about another family going through the same thing could alleviate some pressure.

Themes: Changes at Home, New School, Economic Hardship

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Ramona Quimby: Ramona is 8 and entering the 3rd grade. She is smart and loves to draw like her father, and she hates having to be nice to Willa Jean (the babysitter’s annoying granddaughter) but knows that that’s her job in the Quimby family. Ramona enjoys getting small presents from her dad and likes doing well in school.

Beezus (Beatrice) Quimby: Ramona’s older sister who is in the 8th grade and going to Junior High this year. Beezus and Ramona seem to have  a pretty good relationship, and we witness her 8th grade experiences through the bits and pieces that Ramona picks up: being invited to a party with girls and boys, going to sleepovers with friends.

Mr. Quimby: After tiring of his job as a supermarket checkout clerk, the Quimbys have saved enough money for Mr. Quimby to go back to school. He’s studying to become and art teacher.

Mrs. Quimby: The girls’ mother, who is now working full time to cover expenses while Mr. Quimby is taking classes and working a part-time job.

Bibliographic Info:

Cleary, B. (1981). Ramona Quimby, Age 8. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Tagline:

The third-grade is full of exciting things to learn: cursive and book reports and fruit flies are keeping Ramona busy. But why does Ramona’s teacher all of a sudden think she’s a show-off and a nuisance? She’s just trying to do a good job and fit in at a new school!

The Sisters Grimm

Author: Michael Buckley

Age Range: 10-12 (Kirkus)

Interest Range: 8-12

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Plot: Sabrina and Daphne are pros at breaking out of foster homes. Ever since their parents disappeared, they’ve been escaping from each bad situation and getting back to the orphanage as quick as possible. But this time it’s different. This time, the woman they’re going to be living with claims to be their real grandmother. But that can’t be true, because Sabrina and Daphne have known for years that their grandmother is dead. That’s what their parents said. And this lady also seems to believe that fairy tales are real. Not only real, but that she’s surrounded by them. Granny Relda believes that the town of Ferry Port Landing is crawling with fairy tales, and that it is her job to sort out all of these Everafters’ mysteries. Is she really their grandmother? Will she be able to help the girls find their parents? And just WHAT is going on with all these fairy tale reminiscent characters? Is anyone in this town sane?

Review: Being a huge fan of fairy tales, I absolutely loved this book and the others in the series that I have read so far (at this point I’m on #4). Sabrina and Daphne are two very different girls, and both very set in their ways. Sabrina is skeptical, often so much that it can blind her to the truth. Daphne is trusting, and wants very much to settle into this amazing new existence that she has found. As the books progress, they begin to deal with the issue of prejudice. Sabrina believes that all of the Everafters are horrible and not to be trusted. This often comes back to bite her and is a big part of the third book. I’m curious to see how this plays out over the course of the series. They also deal a lot with the idea of right and wrong with respect to the use of magic, which is interesting since magic is such a popular topic in much middle grade fiction right now. Lovers of fairy tales will have more fun with this series than those who are not as familiar with folklore. Many references will go over readers’ heads if they don’t already have a working knowledge of the best known fairy tale stories.

Themes: Changes at Home, Homelessness, Building New Relationships,

Additional Info:

Series Info: This is book 1 in a 9-book series, which has been completely published at this writing.

Main Characters:

Sabrina Grimm: The older of the two sisters, Sabrina is focused on finding their parents and interested in nothing else. She refuses to believe that this new woman is their grandmother and cannot believe that she would be silly enough to believe that fairy tales are real.

Daphne Grimm: Daphne wants very much to believe that Granny Relda is really their relative and that Ferry Port Landing is really full of Everafters. She delves into the detective work and wants very much to take on the family job of keeping the Everafters in line.

Granny Relda: The mother of the girls’ father, she really is their grandmother. Relda wants to convince the girls to believe her and have them help her with her detective work. She is slightly odd, but who wouldn’t be when they’ve spent their life surrounded by real-life fairy tales? She also wants to find her son and his wife, but is taking a more careful approach, which is not enough for Sabrina.

Bibliographic Info:

Buckley, M. (2007). The Fairy-Tale Detectives. New York: Amulet Books.

Tagline:

The Grimm sisters are about to realize that their family history is not as simple as they thought. When faced with real-life fairy tales, what would you do?

The Red Pyramid

Author: Rick Riordan

Age Range: 10-18 (Kirkus)

Interest Range: 10-14

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Plot: Carter and Sadie have grown up as practically strangers. When their mother died, their father continued traveling the world and studying Egyptian history with Carter in tow while Sadie stayed with their grandparents in England. On Christmas eve, the only time of the year when the three of them are together, their father manages to let lose an ancient Egyptian god who wants him dead. Carter and Sadie are amazed to find that the Egyptian gods are not only real, but after their own family. And now, with the disappearance of their dad they have to learn to work together for the first time in their lives if they have any hope of saving him. As their adventure advances, the brother and sister realize their own powers and unlock the history of their family that goes all the way back to the time of the pharaohs. Can they learn to work together in time to save their dad and the world as we know it?

Review: Riordan seems to have cornered the niche of Greek and Egyptian mythology at the middle grade level. His writing moves quickly, and he throws in lots of history and facts about the different gods and the history and culture of these regions. It’s easy to see why readers enjoy his multiple series, but I can also see how they might get old quickly. Since I have a love for mythology, these books appeal to me and my excitement at seeing young kids excited about reading in this genre. These books could be a good starting place for teaching mythology: a fast paced story to draw them into the topic, and then other materials could be introduced for more depth with different myths or gods.

Themes: Changes at Home, Building New Relationships, Magic, Coming of Age

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Carter Kane: 14 years old, and often called “Wikipedia brain” by his sister, Carter is smart. He also happens to be a very strong magician, although he doesn’t know it at the beginning of this story. Carter’s main concern is finding and saving their father. Of note: Carter (and Sadie) have parents of two different races. His father was black and his mother was white. Carter’s skin color makes this fact much more obvious than his sister’s. People often don’t understand them to be related.

Sadie Kane: 12 years old, Sadie was born and raised for most of her life in Los Angeles but has been living with her grandparents for the past few years in England. She does not see her father often, and does not get along well with her brother because of a fight at her sixth birthday party.

Muffin/Bast: The cat that Sadie’s father gave to her when he lost custody of her, Muffin is actually the goddess Bast in housecat form. She eventually makes her presence known and helps Carter and Sadie in their adventures.

Bibliographic Info:

Riordan, R. (2010). The Red Pyramid. New York: Hyperion Books.

Tagline:

What if one day you found out that your dad was an Egyptian magician? What if all of a sudden you were one too?

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Author: e. l. konigsburg

Age Range: 9-12

Interest Range: 9-12

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Plot: Claudia Kincaid has decided to run away. In the weeks that she spends planning her departure she almost forgets why she wanted to run away in the first place, but she is a very determined almost-12-year-old girl and knows that it must have been something important. She decides to take her younger brother Jamie, because he is richer than any of her siblings and also the one she can stand the most, and that they will travel to New York City and stay in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Think that sounds crazy? Well, they manage to do it- and they make a few big discoveries along the way. Will Claudia and Jamie ever be able to get along? Can they manage to outwit the security guards and not get caught? And just who carved that mysterious new Angel statue, anyway? Hear the story as it was told to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and learn why she’s now writing these two children into her will.

Review: This book was hilarious and also quite deep. I never imagined it to be a discussion on the kinds of feelings and needs a young girl sometimes has to feel different or changed in some way. Yes, it is far fetched in that two children running away from home and living in a museum successfully for a week could not happen today, and at times the text is rather dated (there’s an interesting discussion on drugs and drug pushers and mysterious candy that made me laugh out loud), but it is so well done that you hardly realize that you’re learning something along the way. The value of secrets, or the value of feeling different or changed on the inside even if others can’t tell on the outside. Claudia left home searching for something and was determined to stay away until she knew she could come home as a different person. And she found out she couldn’t force it- her decision to wear a sari and attempt at practicing the appropriate walk after visiting the UN proved that quite clearly. She had to figure things out on her own. And she managed to, in the course of a week. A tall order for the real world, but a valuable lesson to be given to the reader. Sometimes we as humans want to experience a change in ourselves. I’ve had that craving many times, and moved around the country because of it. It’s a desire for adventure and experience. Claudia gained both.

Themes: Adventure, The Importance of Secrets, Changes Within, Coming of Age

Additional Info:

Awards: Newbery winner in 1968

Adaptations: done as an audio book in 1969 (cassette tape), a movie in 1973 (released as The Hideaways, featuring Ingrid Bergman), and a made-for-tv film released in 1995.

Main Characters:

Claudia Kincaid: A very determined 11 year old girl (almost 12) who loved to plan, but is not very good with money. Claudia decides to run away, spends weeks planning it, and manages it rather successfully. They manage to live in a museum, keep themselves well-fed, and even do laundry and travel around New York City without having many problems at all. In the course of the story, Claudia realizes that she is looking for experience and a way to come home changed on the inside.

James Kincaid: Claudia’s 9-year-old brother, who is terrible at planning but very good with his money. He’s been saving every penny he ever earned, and manages the team’s finances while they are adventuring. He is a perfect fit for his sister’s strengths and weaknesses, and the two of them form quite the team while out on their own.

Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: Mrs. Basil is a rich old woman (82 years old) who lives in Connecticut and owns a very vast collection of art. Her statue of the Angel was recently bought by the Metropolitan Museum of Art at an auction, and she holds the secret behind it very dear to her heart. She is the narrator of this story, since she has collected it as evidence and is presenting it to her lawyer to explain why she wants to include Claudia and James in her will.

Saxonberg: Frankweiler’s lawyer, to whom she is writing this story.

Bibliographic Info:

Konigsburg, E. L. (2002). From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Tagline:

Sometimes it’s not enough to come home safe and sound. Sometimes you need to come home different.

Movie Review: Coraline

Written and Directed by: Henry Selick

MPAA Rating: PG

Interest Range: 10-adult

Genre: Fantasy, Horror

Plot: Coraline’s family has recently moved to a new house. It’s boring, and always raining, and Coraline’s parents are prone to ignore her while they both work from home. Her only form of entertainment is exploring- and watching out for Wybie, the grandson of the landlord who has taken to following Coraline around. One day Wybie drops off a surprise for Coraline, a doll he found in his Grandmother’s house that looks just like her: blue hair, yellow raincoat and boots, the only difference is a pair of button eyes. Coraline carries the doll around with her out of boredom, but assures everyone that she’s far too old to play with dolls…and then she finds the door. In the daytime, the tiny secret door opens onto nothing but a bricked up wall, but at night it’s a gateway into a whole separate world just like this one but better. Coraline’s other mother and father adore her and cook her delicious food and give her all of their attention, but now they want her to stay with them. Forever. Coraline must decide which world she wants to live in before it goes too far.

Review: I remember being struck by this movie when I saw it in the theater. It was done in 3D, and seamlessly so. Upon entering the other world, everything seemed to become interactive and beautiful, helping the viewer understand why this world was so much more appealing to a bored 11-year-old girl. It loses some of that when viewed in only 3D, but the story is still intense. While the book features a lot of Coraline’s inner struggles and monologues, allowing for the story to be mainly about her journey with bravery, the movie cannot do that. So the writer created Wybie, an odd little boy who stalks Coraline and eventually becomes her friend after helping to save her from the Belle Dame. Now, having read the book and seen the movie in close succession, I definitely appreciate the book more. But I can see how the movie would hook some children in a way the book could not. The design of the movie also creates some images that could be rather disturbing for some children, whereas the book leaves more to be interpreted in your own imagination. I included two different promotional images for the film in this post that show the juxtaposition of this film. I think that younger children will be interested in this because of the animation aspect, but may be scared off by the intensity of the underlying message and the last 30 minutes. Maybe this film is a good introduction to scary movies?

Themes: Changes at Home, Importance of Family, Building New Relationships

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Coraline Jones: An 11-year-old girl who wants to stand out. She enjoys exploring, asking questions, and looking different from everyone else. When she discovers the door and the other world, Coraline is tired of being ignored. She gladly accepts the gifts and warmth of her other family, but quickly realizes the danger she’s placed herself in.

Wybie: The grandson of the Pink Palace’s landlord, and roughly the same age as Coraline. He’s not quite used to having other kids around, since his grandmother usually doesn’t allow for tenants with children. But Coraline intrigues both him and the feral cat he keeps as a kind of pet, so he follows her to keep an eye on her.

The Belle Dame: Coraline’s other mother. A being that exists by feeding off of the lives of young children. She creates fantastic worlds to lure them into loving her, then ensnares them and uses their life up to maintain her power. She then traps the ghosts in her world, never to be released again.

Bibliographic Info:

Selick, H.(Producer and Director), & Jennings, C. (Producer). (2009). Coraline [Motion picture]. United States: Laika, Pandemonium.

Tagline:

“Be careful what you wish for.”

Drama

Author: Raina Telgemeier

Age Range: 10-14 (Kirkus Review)

Interest Range: 10-14

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Format: Graphic Novel

Plot: Callie is obsessed with theater. She’s been involved in drama for all of middle school so far, and this year she is convinced will be better than anything she’s ever done before. But putting on a production doesn’t come easy- they don’t call it Drama for nothing. Once the actors have been picked, no one seems to be able to work together! Plus, the boy that Callie’s been pining over doesn’t even know she exists. But then come the twins, Justin and Jesse, smart and talented and ready to be Callie’s new best friends. As the show’s final night begins, will the show go on even when one of the stars has a complete melt-down? Will Callie get up the courage to ask her crush to the 8th grade dance? And just who will be promoted to Stage Crew Manager for next year’s performance?

Review: This book is brave. It is the most honest story about coming out and being comfortable in your own skin that I’ve read for the tween age group yet, and it was wonderful. And that wasn’t even the main storyline! With surprises at every turn, Callie’s story is definitely the focal point as she continues to fall for the wrong boy again and again, but in the end she learns to feel comfortable in her own skin and not depend on being liked by others to feel good about herself. And the story of the twins was a great counterpart, showing an example of a boy who knows himself and was able to tell his parents who he really is alongside a boy who is still struggling to let his true self be known- by himself or anyone else. We all come to know ourselves eventually, but sometimes it takes us a little while to get there. Drama really is the perfect title for this story, and not just because they’re all in drama club.

Themes: Coming of Age, Coming Out, Building New Relationships, Crushes, Middle School

Additional Info:

Main Characters:

Callie: A seventh-grader who cannot get enough of theater. She found herself in the drama club and is the stage crew’s number one ambassador. This season she is in charge of set design and convinced that she will build a working cannon.

Justin: The outgoing twin of the family, Justin wants to try out for the musical. He manages to snag a part, not the lead like he wanted but the comedic relief instead. It suits him perfectly. As a side note, Justin is gay and has come out to his brother and Callie, but not his parents.

Jessie: The more quiet of the twins, Jessie joins Callie on stage crew. He is just as talented as his brother, but less ready to show it to the world. As he and Callie grow closer, she cannot help but think he likes her, but things start to change on the night of the final performance and soon Callie learns the truth.

Greg: An eighth grader that Callie has had a crush on for some time. When she learns that his girlfriend has broken up with him, Callie goes for it and kisses him- but Greg had no idea she liked him and is still hung up on Bonnie.

Bonnie: A very popular girl in school, Bonnie seems to be taking all of the good boys. But Callie soon learns her secret- Jessie’s been tutoring her. And when Bonnie tries to get Jessie to agree to help her cheat, all heck breaks loose.

Matt: Brother of Greg, fellow stage crew member of Callie, Matt is inexplicably broody and mean this year. Callie can’t figure out why they don’t get along all of a sudden.

Bibliographic Info:

Telgemeier, R. (2012). Drama. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

Tagline:

Callie was made for the theater- stage crew, that is. But even behind the scenes, there’s more than enough drama to go around.